Ukrainian Parliament on Monday voted to introduce martial law in the border areas with Russia after it seized three Ukrainian navy ships and detained 24 sailors in a key waterway that holds strategic importance for both countries.
Western leaders and diplomats urged both sides to de-escalate the conflict, and the U.S. blamed Russia for what it called “unlawful conduct” over Sunday’s incident in the Black Sea.
Russia and Ukraine blamed each other in the dispute that further ratcheted up tensions ever since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 and threw its weight behind separatists in eastern Ukraine with clandestine support, including troops and weapons.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asked lawmakers in Kiev to institute martial law, something the country has not done even during the worst of the fighting in the east that killed about 10,000 people.
It’s the first time Ukraine has enacted martial law since the conflict with Russia began in 2014, indicating a major escalation in tensions between the two former Soviet Republics.
The law — which could give the government extraordinary powers over civil society — will start on November 28 and will last 30 days. In Parliament, 276 members voted for the motion.
In a statement on Twitter, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko said martial law would be introduced only in regions bordering Russia, or adjacent to regions where Russian troops are posted. That includes regions bordering the Azov and Black Seas and a portion of the border with Moldova’s Transnistria region, where Russian troops are stationed.